PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

April 27, 2011

PA City Council to hear Fitzgibbons' grievance Friday

Sherry Koonce
The Port Arthur News

— Port Arthur City Council will exercise a first Friday — presiding over a grievance filed against one of their own.

On March 21 City Manager Steve Fitzgibbons filed a grievance against the City Council charging that he was the target of harassment and retaliation. Fitzgibbons’ allegations were directed toward Councilman John Beard.

Since the complaint was filed, City Council has adopted an amendment to the city’s grievance ordinance detailing how those filed by city appointees should be handled.

The amendment directs the City Council to first hear the grievance, which should include a proposed remedy. Council has authority to take action, settle the matter, or bring in the services of a arbitrator if they cannot agree on a resolution. The grievant can also request an arbitrator ‘s recommendation if he or she is not satisfied with Council’s decision.

The arbitrator’s recommendation is not binding, leaving the Council to ultimately resolve the grievance.

“Technically, it’s the Council’s decision,” Albert Thigpen, the city’s human resources director, said.

Grievance proceedings should be heard in public session.

According to the grievance, Fitzgibbons charges that Beard retaliated against him for reporting a April 21, 2010 incident whereby Beard entered the Mayor’s office without her knowledge and took pictures which subsequently appeared on a television news broadcast. Beard, Fitzgibbons charged, made a comment to a city staff member that the staff member viewed as a threat to his or her job.

Fitzgibbons also alleges that Beard engaged in retaliation after the a citation was brought against Beard in Municipal court. The citation involved a large storage unit stored beside Beard’s Grannis Street home.

Beard was found guilty by a jury on Feb. 21, 2011 and was fined $500.

Fitzgibbons, in his grievance letter, said he believed the retaliation for reporting violations against Beard were in violation of the Texas Whistleblower’s Act.

Beard said he would be in attendance, and participate in the process though the grievance is leveled against him.

“I am not going to recuse myself,” Beard said. “I am obgliated by my oath of office to serve and because the people who elected me put me there to serve.”

Grievance proceedings begin at 1 p.m. Friday at City Hall.

skoonce@panews.com